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OMMENTARY

SONNET   154     CLIV

   
 CLIV

1. The little Love-god lying once asleep,
2. Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
3. Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep
4. Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
5. The fairest votary took up that fire
6. Which many legions of true hearts had warmed;
7. And so the General of hot desire
8. Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed.
9. This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
10. Which from Love's fire took heat perpetual,
11. Growing a bath and healthful remedy,
12. For men diseased; but I, my mistress' thrall,
13. Came there for cure and this by that I prove,
14. Love's fire heats water, water cools not love.
  See the headnote to the preceding sonnet, 153. This sonnet is based on the same original. The two sonnets are set side by side at the bottom of this page.

     
   

 

THE 1609 QUARTO VERSION
  

 

S O N N E T S.

154

 T

He little Loue-God lying once a ſleepe,
Laid by his ſide his heart inflaming brand,
Whilſt many Nymphes that vou'd chaſt life to keep,
Came tripping by, but in her maiden hand,
The fayreſt votary tooke vp that fire,
Which many Legions of true hearts had warm'd,
And ſo the Generall of hot deſire,
Was ſleeping by a Virgin hand diſarm'd.
This brand ſhe quenched in a coole Well by,
Which from loues fire tooke heat perpetuall,
Growing a bath and healthfull remedy,
For men diſeaſd,but I my Miſtriſſe thrall,
  Came there for cure and this by that I proue,
  Loues fire heates water,water cooles not loue.
 
 
 
                                       F I N I S.

   
    These two sonnets are often referred to as Anacreontic, after the name of a Greek writer who wrote minor love poems and epigrams.

 

 

 1. The little Love-god lying once asleep,    1. The little Love-god = Cupid, who was usually depicted as a babe, or a young boy.
2. Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
 
   2. Laid = had laid, having laid.
heart-inflaming brand = torch which inflames hearts with the passion of love.
3. Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep
 
 
 
   3. nymphs - in 153 they were maidens who accompanied Diana as she hunted wild animals. The same is probably intended here, especially as they had vowed to be chaste, one of the requirements of belonging to Diana's band. A nymph was strictly speaking a minor goddess who inhabited woodland and countryside.
chaste life to keep = to observe, to honour a vow of chastity.
4. Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
 
   4. Came tripping by = came past walking lightly, with carefree steps. Compare Milton's
Come and trip it as ye go,
On the light fantastic toe.
Milton. L' Allegro.33-4.
5. The fairest votary took up that fire
 
 
 
 
 
 
   5. votary = maiden who was dedicated (vowed) to a life of purity. A votary is one who has taken a vow to observe a religious or otherwise special style of life. Compare:
Who are the Votaries my loving Lords,
That are vow-fellowes with this vertuous Duke?
LLL.II.1.37-8.
took up = picked up.
that fire
= Cupid's torch.
6. Which many legions of true hearts had warmed;
 
 
   6. many legions = many multitudes. 'Legions' was often used of angels or devils, meaning vast armies of the spirits of either region. The phrase 'their name is Legion' means 'they are innumerable'. The image is a military one, implying armies, a metaphor continued in the next line with 'General'.
7. And so the General of hot desire
 
 
 
 
 
   7. general - Q gives a capital G which I have retained since it is a form of military title, General Cupid, or Generalissimo of Passion etc.
hot desire
= erotic passion. The phrase could be taken as descriptive of the General, or part of his title, or it could be the object of disarmed in the next line, thus 'The General was disarmed of his weapon, hot desire, while he slept'.
8. Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed.
 
   8. a virgin hand = the hand of a virgin votaress. A mild bawdy innuendo is probably intended, such as 'she slept beside him and laid his spirit'. (See note to 129 line 1).
9. This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
 
   9. This brand = Cupid's torch.
well
- see the note on fountain, line 4 of the previous sonnet.
by
= nearby
10. Which from Love's fire took heat perpetual,
 
   10. Which - i.e. the well, which became heated.
Love's fire
= Cupid's brand; symbolically, the passion of love.
heat perpeual
= everlasting heat. As in 153, A dateless lively heat, still to endure.
11. Growing a bath and healthful remedy,    11. Growing a bath = becoming a bath, being converted into a bath etc. As in 153, grew a seething bath.
12. For men diseased; but I, my mistress' thrall,
 
   12. For men diseased = for men who have love sickness; for men who have syphilis.
my mistress' thrall = a slave to my mistress.
13. Came there for cure and this by that I prove,
 
   13. there = to the bath, the well.
this by that I prove
= my experience at the bath (this) shows that etc.
I prove
= I demonstrate by experience.
14. Love's fire heats water, water cools not love.    14. Love's fire - see line 10.
 
This is the last sonnet.    
Previous Sonnet  
 

   
CLIII

Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep:
A maid of Dian's this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrowed from this holy fire of Love,
A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.
But at my mistress' eye Love's brand new-fired,
The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
And thither hied, a sad distempered guest,
But found no cure, the bath for my help lies
Where Cupid got new fire; my mistress' eyes.
  CLIV

The little Love-god lying once asleep,
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warmed;
And so the General of hot desire
Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed.
This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from Love's fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy,
For men diseased; but I, my mistress' thrall,
Came there for cure and this by that I prove,
Love's fire heats water, water cools not love.
     

Home Sonnets 1 - 50 Sonnets 51 - 100 Sonnets 101 - 154 A Lover's Complaint. Sonnet no. 1
First line index Title page and Thorpe's Dedication Some Introductory Notes to the Sonnets Sonnets as plain text 1-154 Text facsimiles Other related texts of the period
Picture Gallery
Thomas Wyatt Poems Other Authors General notes  for background details, general policies etc. Map of the site Valentine Poems
London Bridge   as it was in Shakespeare's day, circa 1600. Views of London   as it was in 1616. Views of  Cheapside  London, from a print of 1639. The Carrier's  Cosmography.   A guide to all the Carriers in London.  As given by John Taylor in 1637. Oxquarry Books Ltd
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